Types of Fertilizer

by Brooke Tolman
(last updated September 29, 2021)


Plants need nutrients to stay alive. It's as simple as that, but those necessary nutrients aren't always readily available. Nutrients don't stay long in the soil and need to be replenished regularly. Each nutrient plays an important role in plant growth and survival and that's where fertilizer comes in. Fertilizer is a means of supplying these nutrients.

The nutrients that your plants need are divided into three categories: macronutrients, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients. Macronutrients are things such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium which are critical to your plants health. Secondary nutrients include calcium and magnesium. These are needed in lesser amounts than macronutrients, yet still very important to your plant's health. Micronutrients include boron, chlorine, and iron which are just needed in small amounts.

Fertilizer is available in two types, liquid and granular. Liquid fertilizers usually come in concentrates and you mix them with water prior to application with a hose. These are quickly absorbed and are therefore fast-acting. However, they do require reapplication every 2-3 weeks.

Granular fertilizers are dry and must be watered after application. They are easier to control because you can actually see where they are being dispersed and how much of it is being dispersed. You can either apply them by hand or using a fertilizer spreader. Granular fertilizers come in two different forms, quick-release and slow-release. Quick-release fertilizer lasts about three to four weeks and slow-release lasts about 8-12 weeks, depending on if you get sulfur or polymer coated. Both can change depending on rainfall and temperature.

It can be very daunting to have to go to the store and try and read a fertilizer label. What do all those numbers mean and what kind should you get? The three numbers on the bag are called the NPK numbers and refer to the percentage amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (always in that order) occurring in the fertilizer. The rest of the fertilizer is just made up of filler. Depending on what exactly your lawn needs will depend on which numbers you get. In the case that you aren't sure, it would be best to use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14.

Weed and Feed is a very common type of fertilizer used because, as the name implies, it not only feeds your grass and plants but kills the weeds that surround them. There are two types of weed and feed: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergents are weed killers that must be applied BEFORE the weeds germinate. They are useful in preventing crabgrass, a common lawn weed. Post-emergents are contact killers and are used for weeds that are already actively growing. Make sure to read the packages carefully to see which one fits your needs best.

Author Bio

Brooke Tolman

Brooke is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science. She currently resides in Seattle where she works as a freelance data analyst and personal trainer. She hopes to spend her life camping and traveling the world. ...


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What is 2 + 4?

2013-03-05 09:20:48

Jerry Gonzales

Can you tell us which weed fertilizer is best for the San Antonio metro area and where to buy it as some of these are hard to find. Thanks!


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